(CNN)After several days of aggressive military advances, the spotlight is on Libya once again. For a long time it's been both the most strategically relevant yet most overlooked country in the Mediterranean. Now, some decisive maneuvers by a renegade general could pierce, or further complicate, the cloud of chaos that has descended on Libya since the 2011 civil war.
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At the heart of this is Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, now leading the current move by forces from the east of the country towards the capital Tripoli. Haftar is, to be polite, the ultimate pragmatist. He supported Moammar Gadhafi in his 1969 coup, then found himself in Langley, Virginia in the 90s where he gained US citizenship, before returning to overthrow Gadhafi in the 2011 conflict. Since then, he has been one of many strongmen claiming pre-eminence in the nation's descent into disarray, based in the city of Benghazi and exerting most of his control in eastern Libya.
It is unclear how serious Haftar is about moving into Tripoli, the heavily populated capital where warring militia occasionally spar for control, preventing the UN-recognized and Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj from fully grasping the reins of power.
A Western diplomat in the city, who did not want to be named in order to discuss a sensitive topic, said Haftar was likely hovering somewhere between posturing and making a definitive move on the capital. The outcome could be extremely bloody or, given the quixotic nature of Libya's power struggles and backroom dealing, over quite fast. It is also taking place, somewhat daringly, just as the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is in the country. Guterres was flying on Friday between Tripoli and Benghazi to mediate.
On Friday morning Haftar's spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said from Benghazi that his forces continue to advance. "The people of Tripoli, hopefully, will be seeing the victories of the armed forces in accomplishing the main mission in the war against terrorism, which is the purging of the capital," he told Agence France-Presse. "Therefore, the law enforcement in the capital will have an effect on the entire country."